Bobcat gridders visit unbeaten Newton for district opener

Stop the run, win the game. A simple game plan that could lead to the first district win for the Bobcats since Oct. 2 of last year.

The Marshalltown football team (1-3) heads to Newton on Friday to kick off its five-game Class 4A District 4 slate. The Bobcats won 24-21 last season on the road, fighting off 114 net rushing yards by the Cardinals (4-0) and grabbing two touchdowns through the air from graduated senior Peyton Williams.

This year will be a much different story. After just winning one game last year, the Cardinals come into Friday night’s contest undefeated and leading District 4 in rushing with 1,182 yards.

Bobcat head coach Don Knock said each year, stopping Newton’s rushing attack is the main focus. If they can do that, they might be able to force it into the hands of junior quarterback Garrett Sturtz.

“They don’t throw much. They threw more against Burlington than they did the first three games,” Knock said. “They’ve always been a running team. When you play Newton, you have to stop their misdirection and their runs. But we’ve got a pretty good plan. That’s what we did to them last year.”

The Cardinals are coming off a 35-21 win against Burlington, while the Bobcats fell last Friday to Waterloo West 41-7. This year, Newton’s Jordan Norvell has totaled 294 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while teammate Reese Rosenquist has put up 256 yards and two touchdowns.

Sturtz has rushed for 197 more yards and Jaron Roush has combined for 146 yards and two scores.

However, Sturtz is just 18-for-23, with 258 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the first four games. The 258 passing yards is the lowest among any team in District 4. But, Sturtz has completed 78.3 percent of his passes, the highest in the district.

Last year, Sturtz went 9-for-13 with a touchdown and two interceptions. Another year old and another year wiser might not make a difference to a Bobcat defense the has forced an interc eption in every game thus far.

Senior Reese Hageman recorded a pick in weeks one and two, setting the tone for a fairly stout defensive season.

“Our corners have got to play tough and make the plays on the toss and quarterback keepers,” Hageman said. “We need turnovers. Fumbles, interceptions, whatever we can get. We’ve got to give our offense a chance. We need to give the offense good field positon to see what they can do.”

MHS quarterback Sam Irwin is starting to find his groove. The junior is 49-for-101 this season with 618 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. Marshalltown is averaging 22 points per game, but without the 70-spot it put up against Waterloo East, the Bobcats manage just less than a touchdown per game at 6.33 points.

It’ll be important for the Bobcats to find the end zone early, Knock said. If they can do that, they’ll have a chance to utilize a defense that has the potential to keep them in the game late, if it comes down to it again.

“We’ve got to start fast,” Knock said. “We’ve got to be good to ourselves and not the other team. We were way too good to West Waterloo; gave them too good of field position and they played on a short field most of the first part of the game. We’ve got to play with reckless abandonment for six seconds at a time and do our job.”

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Newton High School on Friday.